The Blog for Culture Vultures

Satiate your inner Culture Vulture with regular news and posts about cultural awareness, doing business abroad, working in a multicultural environment, HR diversity and global mobility.

How Does Islam Impact Doing Business in the Middle East?

Islam-MiddleEast

Are you new to doing business with the Middle East? Understanding the local culture is critical if you want to succeed.

In order to truly understand the locals, then you need to understand Islam and its influence on, not only the culture, but how business gets done.

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How Should I Address People in the Middle East?

arab-naming-etiquette

Are you travelling to the Arab world for business or working with Arab clients/colleagues?

Need to know what to call people and how to address them? Then this blog is exactly what you’ve been searching for!

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How does the Diversity of the Middle East Shape Cultural Sensitivity Training?

yemeni-tribesmen

When it comes to cultural sensitivity training, it’s a little misleading to think of Middle Eastern culture as something homogenous. 

Why?  Because the Middle East is a melting pot of ethnicities, languages and religions.  These elements all fuse together to give us a rich cultural tapestry.

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Supermodel Accused of Racism Over Cultural Faux Pas

Supermodel Accused of Racism Over Cultural Faux Pas

Did you hear about the supermodel, the airport lounge and the cultural faux pas that caused uproar in Saudi Arabia and the UAE?

No? Well this is a great little example of culture gone wrong!

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Why Do Middle Eastern Men Wear a Chequered Head-dress?

Why Do Middle Eastern Men Wear a Chequered Head-dress?

A common question foreigners moving to or working in the Middle East ask at cultural awareness training sessions is, "Why do the men wear the head-dress?"

Great question! So let's discover more about the reasons behind it.

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What are the Most Common Causes of Culture Shock for Expats Moving to the Middle East?

What are the Most Common Causes of Culture Shock for Expats Moving to the Middle East?

Providing relocation training for expats moving to the Middle East means that we get to hear a great deal about people’s experiences in their new home country.

Although moving to the Middle East can be an incredibly positive experience, it goes without saying that adapting to new cultures and ways of doing things can be a challenge.

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Culturally Aware Taxi Drivers Ensure Good PR for The UAE

Culturally Aware Taxi Drivers Ensure Good PR for The UAE

If you’ve visited the UAE, then you’ll know that one of the things they do really well (particularly in Dubai), is to create great visitor experiences.

The UAE is known for its beautiful architecture, luxurious hotels, beautiful mosques, cultural landmarks and incredible tourist attractions.

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What Cultural Differences Can an American Expat Find When Moving to The Middle East?

What Cultural Differences Can an American Expat Find When Moving to The Middle East?

The Middle East is as culturally diverse as the USA, which makes it difficult to talk about Middle Eastern culture as something homogenous.

What we will do, however, is to pick a few cultural differences which are shared across most of the Middle East and which are more likely to trip North Americans up when working in the region.

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What does Google Search Data tell us about Culture in Saudi Arabia?

What does Google Search Data tell us about Culture in Saudi Arabia?

For those of you interested in the Saudi people and culture, Google Search Engine data is a great starting point.

By looking at what people in Saudi Arabia are searching for online, you can establish a good understanding of what’s important to the Saudi people and, from this, draw inferences about the culture and life in Saudi Arabia.

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Being Clueless about UAE Culture Won’t Protect You from Punishment

Being Clueless about UAE Culture Won’t Protect You from Punishment

A survey by the UAE’s security magazine, 999, has shown that most expatriates visiting the UAE are doing so while blind to UAE cultural customs and traditions.

Seven out of ten of the 2,000 expatriates included in the survey claimed to not understand local Emirati culture and traditions.

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Dismantling Stereotypes of Saudi Arabia

Dismantling Stereotypes of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has become an almost permanent fixture in Western news.

With the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the continued carnage in the Yemen which threatens to spiral into the worst global famine this generation, the spotlight placed on Saudi Arabia has been almost completely negative.

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Hospitality, Food & Friendship in Arab Business Culture

Hospitality, Food & Friendship in Arab Business Culture

Being a good host is a central part of life in the Middle East and it is an underpinning value that everyone in the region shares.

The roots of this can be found in the tribal system whereby treating guests well is traditionally a way of gaining honour.

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Understanding the Arab Middle East - Identity, Roots and Values

Understanding the Arab Middle East - Identity, Roots and Values

As with any people, the Arabs look to the past for their sense of identity.

Arab history is tied to tribalism and the nomadic life of the desert. Although in most places the nomadic lifestyle has all but disappeared, the influence of the desert and especially the importance of tribal identity are still prominent today.

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Gift Giving Etiquette in the Middle East

Gift Giving Etiquette in the Middle East

The giving and receiving of gifts is an important part of professional and personal life in the Middle East.

Closely tied up with the need to maintain relationships and as a way of gaining and giving face, gift giving bonds people together.

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When in Saudi, Do Not Dab

When in Saudi, Do Not Dab

A word of warning for anyone travelling to Saudi Arabia - stay well away from any dabbing. The move could see you spending some time in jail.

Abdullah al-Shahrani, a Saudi entertainer, was recently detained by Saudi authorities after dabbing during a concert in the city of Taif.

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The Importance of Business Relationships in the Middle East

The Importance of Business Relationships in the Middle East

Intercultural Awareness

Intercultural awareness training is sometimes perceived as a luxury within the business world. Many who feel this way are also proponents of the misconception that because the "world is getting smaller" our differences are becoming less obvious and less of a problem. This is in fact false. As we get closer, our differences become more acute and more of a problem thus further driving the need for intercultural awareness training.

Companies are now tuning into the fact that in order to get ahead in today's global economy, cultural awareness is critical. It is no longer a luxury but a necessity. The right intercultural awareness training briefing can offer a company real benefits, namely a competitive advantage and a greater long term gain.

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A Brief Introduction to Zoroastrianism

A Brief Introduction to Zoroastrianism

Zoroastrianism is one the oldest religions in the world.

It is definitely one of the first monotheist religions. It was founded by Zoroaster and it believes in one God, Ahura Mazda.

There are very few Zoroastrians in the world today but it still holds an important place. A large part of their population is divided between Iran and India. The Zoroastrians living in India are called Parsis.

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20 Must Know Arabic Words and Phrases for your Business Trip to the Arab World

20 Must Know Arabic Words and Phrases for your Business Trip to the Arab World

Travelling to the Middle East, The Gulf or Arab world on business?

No matter where in the world you go for work knowing a few words or phrases in the local language can break down barriers, build relationships and smooth the way to business success.

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Doing Business in The Middle East

Doing Business in The Middle East

The Middle East is an area which carries many stereotypes and myths. Before doing business in the Middle East it is imperative to learn about areas such as business culture, business etiquette, meeting protocol and negotiation techniques.  Through such knowledge stereotypes are broken and barriers to communication reduced.

When doing business in the Middle East, it is wise to bear in mind the great diversity within the region. However, a common religion, language and culture make the highlighting of general traits and features for the region valid.

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The Middle East Unveiled: A Review

The Middle East Unveiled: A Review



As someone in the intercultural field, a Muslim and having spent many years living, working and travelling throughout the Arab world, I am always keen to scrutinize literature aimed at business professionals seeking to improve their knowledge of the region. Donna Marsh’s “The Middle East Unveiled” is a recent edition to such literature.
With an experience of the region spanning some 30 years, Donna worked within sales, marketing and new business development across the region. Today she acts as a trainer and consultant advising companies on how to work more effectively in the region.
The major positive of the book is summed up in the title’s sub-heading, ‘a cultural and practical guide for all western business professionals’. The topics covered are very comprehensive. Ranging from the usual business practicalities and etiquette to safety and security through to what to do at the weekend. One could suggest that the author was over ambitious in the range of subjects covered however the informal and succinct writing style help the reader get straight to the point thus lightening the experience. The format of the book further allows the reader to ‘dip’ into topics rather than having to wrestle with long chapters.
I find chapters on Islam intriguing. It is not uncommon for “Western” authors to misrepresent the religion, fuel expat stereotypes or simply offer their gloss of a highly complex and colourful religion. Donna however has managed to tackle a sensitive topic with an impressive amount of clarity, accuracy and balance. The key, it appears, is her straight-talking approach to the topic and a deep appreciation of what the religion actually says on certain matters plus the various practices across the region. In short the section gives anyone a great introduction to Islam and Muslims, increasing awareness and therefore reducing the ‘fear factor’.
Any review would not be a review without some nitpicking. Two major factors stand out for me when looking for the negatives of the book.
People love case studies, anecdotes and the like when it comes to cultural information. It gives people real life examples, context and a way of applying information to situations. Each chapter could have done with an anecdote from the author’s library of experiences to help readers along the journey. This neatly brings me on to my second point.
As a woman, such anecdotes would have had even greater impact. Donna’s advantage with this book was her gender. At a time when we are fed stories of stonings, burqas, forced marriages and honour killings this was an opportunity for a woman to bring across her story of the Arab world. Women in business tend to shy away from the region; a real and honest assessment of a Western woman’s role in the Arab world could have had a great impact on this perception. Although the book does cover topics around gender differences in a useful manner, that little bit extra in terms of a woman’s viewpoint would have meant added value to the reader.
In conclusion, Donna has successfully managed to encapsulate her knowledge and experiences in this great little publication. It is current, comprehensive and most importantly useful. A ‘must-have’ for anyone looking to better their understanding of working in the region.
By Neil Payne, Kwintessential Ltd

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